Why Nathan needs the Lyon’s share of time
16 months ago I wrote an article for The Roar after the naming of the squad to tour Sri Lanka, and in particular focused on the naming of Michael Beer and Nathan Lyon as spinners.
In that article I mentioned that I found it worrying that Lyon was picked on Big Bash form and raised concerns about how he would go.
16 months later, and I am happy to put my hand up and say I was wrong. Lyon made a storming entrance to Test cricket, claiming Kumar Sangakkara with his first ball.
He has now gone on to perform consistently in 13 tests. 42 wickets at an average of 27.83 and a strike rate of 57 is certainly not to be sneezed at.
As we approach the start of a new summer, I am amazed to hear that his place in the side is under question, as once again an Aussie spinner is subject to the Warne factor – that is, the expectation that our spinners should be world beaters with a bag of tricks and taking wickets galore.
We as a cricketing public are still struggling to accept how much of a phenomenon Warnie was, and that it will be hard to ever get near his genius.
But rather than compare Lyon to the great man, we should compare him to his contemporaries. When you look at the figures for spinners in Test cricket since Lyon made his debut, he is ranked #4 in the world for most wickets taken, behind Saeed Ajmal, Rangana Herath and Ravichandran Ashwin.
His performances put him ahead of the likes of Graham Swann, Dan Vettori and South Africa’s great hope Imran Tahir.
And we can break this down even further – Ajmal took 24 wickets in three matches in the UAE against an England side that knew as much about playing spin as a four year old, and Ashwin took 22 in three matches at home against a very inexperienced West Indies side.
When it comes to five wicket hauls, only Herath and Ashwin with six and five stand out, with most others at three or two (Lyon has two).
After a strong two years, Swann has tailed off in a big way, and even on the tour of the UAE he was outbowled by Monty Panesar. He was lucky not to be dropped.
Dan Vettori has lost his penetration that made him a threat 10 years ago, and is now just a containment bowler who gets the odd wicket. This is reflected in a strike rate of a mind boggling 120.6 – a wicket every 20 overs.
Tahir has been touted by South Africa for a long time, but while he has bowled well in patches, he has not looked like a match winner either, and has struggled at times for control and penetration – a strike rate of 74 and economy rate of 3.25 compared to Lyon’s 57 and 2.9.
When you look at these figures, and take into account that Lyon’s 13 Test matches account for half of his first class career, we should realise he is a quality bowler who will only get better.
Lyon should be given his fair share of time in the Test team and he could quite easily turn into a 300 wicket or more Test match bowler.
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